European-wide action sought on discrimination
Moves to introduce a uniform, European-wide condition to impose more robust action for club players or managers found guilty of racist or discriminatory abuse are being discussed.
It was revealed by Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor during the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Select Committee hearing on racism in football on Tuesday (15 May).
The anti-racism clause is part of the Minimum Contract Requirements agreement signed by FIFpro, the worldwide representative organisation for all professional players, the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) and the European Club Association (ECA) at the EU in Brussels last month.
The union supports the clause, which makes acts of racism by either player or club a breach of contract subject to sanction. It will potentially be introduced at the beginning of the 2012/13 season.
Taylor was joined by David Bernstein and Sue Law from The Football Association, Raj Chandarana of the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), Paul Elliott and Lord Herman Ouseley to debate a host of topics, from the lack of black managers to the emergence of issues related to social media, and homophobia.
The professional club environment came under the spotlight. “Clubs don’t act in the way a non-football employer might on issues related to discrimination,” commented Ouseley. “The clubs do not apply proper procedures as in other employment situations, they rely on The FA to deal with the discipline and they don’t impose as normal employers their right and responsibility to say to those players, ‘You have breached a code of conduct as an employee of this club’, and that is where the problem is.
“In addition, there is an issue of the impenetrable nature of the dressing room. If we’re to make progress, this is an area where focus is needed. The complication is, really, the clubs have very expensive assets in players and they are reluctant to take disciplinary action from the outset. If clubs had a proper employment-employee relationship as in all other employment situations they would take action the moment a player misbehaves in a certain way.”
Chandarana, an FSF executive committee member who leads on diversity, is keen to see an impact made at all levels throughout clubs: “If you’re training players on diversity and look at the director’s box and dugout, and it’s not diverse, you’d probably question the sincerity of training. The ethos of a club is demonstrated by leadership from the top.”
On the issue of stewarding, Ouseley commented: “The level and quality of stewarding is varied. Clubs can apply to undertake Kick It Out’s Equality Standard in order to address these issues and get stewards’ accreditation. Millwall have tackled the issue head on and have robust comprehensive training in place. County FAs have different approaches to how they log, capture and categorise incidents, which makes it hard to give a full picture of racist incidents, as some are logged as disciplinary.”
When discussing the influence of Twitter and Facebook, the panel suggested ‘a culture shift’ is needed, in which players take a more proactive approach across social media channels. Another current topic which has caused much debate is the potential creation of an English football version of the Rooney Rule, a system instilled in America’s National Football League (NFL) to address the lack of ethnic minority presence in coaching and management positions.
Ouseley believes the introduction of a similar policy could play a key role in more black and minority ethnic candidates gaining managerial positions: “The FA and clubs need to realise that if they don’t open opportunities up, people will turn away from the game. This hasn’t changed considerably enough. How do we generate aspiration and hope? We can only do that avenues are accessible.”